Specific T cell proliferation was observed in short-term blood mononuclear cell cultures set up from Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-immune individuals and challenged either with UV-irradiated EB virions or with a candidate subunit vaccine preparation, the purified envelope glycoprotein gp340 incorporated into immune stimulating complexes (gp340 iscoms). Limiting dilution culture of the activated T lymphoblasts in interleukin 2-containing medium generated stable CD3+CD4+CD8- T cell clones. Particular clones showing virus-specific proliferation in preliminary screening assays were selected for more detailed study. Three gp340 iscoms-induced clones from EBV-immune donor CG responded specifically to restimulation either with UV-EBV or with purified gp340 iscoms in the presence of autologous antigen-presenting cells (APC). Both T cell-depleted blood mononuclear cells and the EBV-transformed B cell line (treated with Acyclovir to block endogenous gp340 production) could be used for presentation, the latter being the more efficient when gp340 iscoms was the source of antigen. Blocking studies with monoclonal antibodies to HLA class II antigens and experiments using HLA-typed allogeneic APC indicated that all three gp340-specific CG clones were restricted through the HLA-DR2 antigen. One gp340 iscoms-induced clone from another EBV-immune donor, MR, likewise showed gp340-specific proliferation, in this case restricted through a HLA-DR4 antigen. Using HLA-DR-homozygous B cell lines representing the five known DR4 subtypes, efficient presentation of gp340 to this T cell clone was observed with both DR4Dw4 and DR4Dw14 antigens. Parallel experiments on one UV-EBV-induced T cell clone from donor MR gave a different pattern of results; these cells appeared to be specific for a virus structural component other than gp340 and to be restricted through an HLA-DP determinant.